Last March 28, the House of Representatives of the Brazilian Congress created a Special Commission to discuss the Internet Bill. I have already made my brief comments about the bill here when I reported it had been sent to Congress so that I will not go into details right now.
Suffice it to say that there is a lot of room for improvement.
In any event, it seems that Congress is at least worried about the implications of such bill and the creation of the Special Commission is indicative of that. The President of the Comission is Congressman João Arruda, from the PMDB party from the state of Paraná (South of Brazil). In declarations to one of the largest Brazilian newspapers, O Estado de São Paulo, Mr. Arruda said that “The discussion touches upon censorship. It is related to privately owned companies. And it also relates to the responsible for the investigation of crimes. It is necessary to find balance.”
When talking about the monitoring of behavior of users, Mr. Arruda complements: “The monitoring of citizens can be viewed as censorship. We cannot put an ‘ankle brace’ on each citizen thinking he might commit a crime. The monitoring would be tantamount to telephone tapping”.
This bill is the result of an extensive public consultation process, one that ended up stripping the bill of any meaningful measure to protect intellectual property. The only preoccupation is with the users, not with the people – and companies – that actually create the content that make the Internet go round. Mr. Arruda’s preoccupations are sound but I wonder if his logic about the “ankle brace” would indeed be applicable here. While the telephone companies cannot monitor the lines without a court order, they do keep track of which telephone number called which telephone number. If a court order is issued, the telephone companies will disclose to the court the information they have. The Internet Bill, as it is right now, does not allow the ISPs to keep the same kind of information the telephone carriers keep about us. How is the Internet different from telephones that such a different treatment would be warranted? I am all for privacy and anonymity (the Brazilian Constitution is the one quite clearly against anonymity and I have to abide) but anonymity used to commit crimes is a another thing entirely. The Internet should not and cannot be viewed as a safe haven and I really hope Mr. Arruda sees that.
The idea of the Special Commission now is to have a round of “public hearings” in order to further discuss the text. It is time – again – for interested parties to voice concerns and be heard.